UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore remarks at the Digital Co-operation Event: Action for Future Generations
As prepared for delivery
NEW YORK, 23 September 2020 - "Good morning. On behalf of everyone at UNICEF, it is wonderful to join this event to discuss our collaboration on digital solutions.
"We are proud co-leads of the Roadmap’s recommendations around universal connectivity and digital public goods.
"Both are essential to achieve a safe, secure, affordable online access for every person.
"And both are increasingly necessary tools as we support children through the COVID-19 pandemic and help them, and their communities, recover and re-build for the future.
"The risks are huge. Right now, half of humanity is not connected to the internet. Hundreds of millions of children and young people are unable to access learning and skills.
"Quite simply — they’re losing out on an opportunity to build better futures for themselves.
"We must bridge this digital divide.
"With the ITU, UNICEF has launched GIGA, an ambitious global initiative to connect every school and its surrounding community to the Internet. This will offer billions more young people access to a world of information and endless opportunity.
"We are working to Reimagine Education. This includes online learning opportunities, like the Learning Passport — a distance-learning platform we developed with Microsoft and Cambridge University, now reaching about 227 million children worldwide.
"It includes our work with mobile phone companies to provide “zero rating” solutions to provide access to online learning tools — as we have done in Africa and Latin America.
"And it includes working with companies to provide students with new learning devices that are preloaded with relevant, topical and accessible curriculum.
"We want to use these tools for learning and skills development across a child’s development, up to adulthood. Our Generation Unlimited platform is bringing together the public and private sectors around these needs, to develop and deploy new digital tools and investments to this work. Three weeks ago, Gen U mobilized an impressive group of leaders from government, businesses and young people to discuss our next steps in this important work.
"Our ultimate vision is about taking all of these tools, combining them with connectivity, and revolutionizing learning and skills development for children — no matter where they live — by turning them into Digital Public Goods.
"In partnership with Norway, we’ve launched the Digital Public Goods Alliance, where you can find open-source solutions that support young people and governments across the Sustainable Development Goals.
"To make this vision a reality, we are building a strong partnership between GIGA with the Digital Public Goods Alliance and Re-imagine Education.
"Imagine being a young person and connecting to the internet for the first time. Imagine finding at your fingertips all the tools you need to learn, to build skills, to find employment, and to communicate globally. All for free, as globally available digital public goods.
"But transforming this vision into reality requires three things.
"First — it requires more public and private partners joining our work.
"Follow the lead of companies like Ericsson, which just joined GIGA as the first private sector partner to commit to school-connectivity mapping. Or governments like Kazakhstan and Rwanda for stepping up as regional leads in Central Asia and Africa. Or Niger, a GIGA lead country, which received $100 million from the World Bank to connect schools and villages across the country.
"Second — it requires funding from both public and private sources. Work with us to engage with partners, and pool and secure the funding required to truly reach every school, every community every child and every young person.
"Work with us to unlock policy and legal barriers to connectivity and opportunities. We need an estimated $500 billion — an ambitious but necessary investment in the future of our world. We need world leaders at the G7, G20, WEF and globally to come on board. And we need young people with cost-effective localized solutions as partners too
"And third — it requires redesigning the economic incentives and investment opportunities available to providers. UNICEF is developing a new financing platform for GIGA. We urge our partners to join us as we seek out, and scale-up, financing for this critical need.
"As a UN family, as businesses, as governments, as citizens of the world — we have a unique moment to connect the world, and ensure that every child and every young person can reach the tools to help them learn, develop and grow.
"COVID-19 has accelerated this process. It has shown us the great need. But it has also shown us that we already have the tools we need to begin this journey.
"The next steps of this journey, however, require a renewed commitment, investments, and new partnerships. That’s what this meeting is all about.
"UNICEF is proud to be on this exciting journey with you, and we look forward to continuing this work, and gathering new partners to our cause.